James Crombie/INPHO
Silver lining
'To get experience in those situations is great': Marmion ready to build after impressing in Cardiff
It was a rare opportunity for the scrum-half to show his worth for a extended period on the big stage.

KIERAN MARMION IS too nice a guy to let on that he proved a point to anyone amid Ireland’s defeat to Wales on Friday night.

But his performance in the cauldron of the Principality Stadium was a shining silver lining on what was an otherwise murky night in Cardiff.

The Connacht scrum-half was belatedly introduced to the game, replacing the hurt Conor Murray as soon as the hosts took a 15 – 6 lead.

He wasn’t able to turn the result, but he looked completely at home and comfortable supplying Jonathan Sexton with sharp, accurate service from the base of rucks and also t offering the threat of a his own snipe.

Across the 25-year-old’s 12 caps, Friday night was the first occasion when he was thrown in with a truly big Test still in the melting pot – aside from the November win over Australia when he played 40 minutes as an emergency wing.

“The longer you’re in (camp), the easier it gets,” the Pro12 champion says with self-effacing smile.

“Obviously there’s a lot of pressure and you need to get used to that. I guess the more you’re around the lads, the more you know your detail and stuff.”

To get that experience in those situations is great for me. All the lads around me helped me out when I was out there. I’ve done enough reps in training, the training’s pretty high-pressure as well. So when you go out you just have to convert it into a game.”

The flip-side of the coin is the danger of spending too long learning the ropes and not enough holding them.

In the case of this Ireland team, where Jonathan Sexton and Murray are such clear first-choice selections, it would be easy for the understudy nine and 10 to take a confidence hit when consistently left among the replacements even when there is an injury concern over the starter.

Ireland have been quick to indicate that Murray is clear of his stinger issue and will be fit to face England. But having shown his worth in the red heat of Cardiff, Marmion should feel a step closer to challenge the Munster man for the jersey and minutes.

“It definitely gives you confidence knowing that you’ve been out there in that kind of situation. It’s an experience you can keep. It’s something I want to build on. I want to keep learning from Conor and the lads and keep improving my game.”

Ireland’s Kieran Marmion Inpho / Billy Stickland Inpho / Billy Stickland / Billy Stickland

While Marmion enjoyed the experience on a personal level, the overriding emotion was obviously disappointment as Ireland’s title hopes were ended eight days before what had been teed up as a potential Grand Slam decider. The scrum-half says the tournament finale remains a chance to right some wrongs.

“There was huge disappointment after the game. We felt we could go over there and get the result we wanted. That obviously didn’t happen, but we’ve got to keep looking forward again this weekend is a huge match for us.

“We want to put what went wrong right for us this weekend. There’s a lot in this game, but we want to put in a performance ourselves.”

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